Ideas for Drox 2
I thought I'd start a thread for this, since I keep having ideas and they're being left all over the place. Needless to say, these are all simply my opinion.
First, I think it's important to state what makes Drox so good. I acknowledge that I missed this when Drox was released, as I was constantly comparing it to DC and DoP, and Drox is just very different. Drox's quest system is not personal, like in the fantasy games. It happens to other races. It *could* become personal, were you to get the mission of protecting a specific race, but otherwise, it's not the main focus. Rather, the main focus is the background simulation, which includes real resources in the form of planets, food, minerals etc, and the way the quests interact with and affect the simulation.
It doesn't hurt that compared to the state of the art in space games, Drox fares well. There aren't many space ARPGs, and Drox looks good enough. Space is empty, so you don't need much in terms of background objects. And animations aren't needed for spaceships. This makes it much easier to compete.
Additionally, Drox's inventory and skill system is more interesting than a regular ARPG's due to power consumption limits, slot limits, and the fact that skills are item-based. This makes it so that you can enjoy Drox purely at the basic gameplay loop level of killing monsters and upgrading.
However, when Drox really comes into its own, is when you start caring about what's happening in the simulation. If you don't care who wins the space race and you're just looking to make money, the quests blend together. You just keep shooting and someone somewhere will give you a quest reward. But if you *do* care - for example, if the people winning hate you, or you got a Drox guild mission to protect a race or destroy a race - now you want to pay attention to what's happening at the simulation level, and this is when Drox outshines every other game in its genre IMO.
Given this, here are some ideas:
* We need a better interface to view all known planets and their general statistics. Filter by race ownership, type, etc. Currently it's just too disorganized and hard to get a grip on what planet is important to which race. The UI could also show us available quests per planet as we hover over these planets.
* Spying: by planting a spy network, you could get advanced info on where a race is sending a colony ship, where they plan on attacking etc. This would help you affect the simulation in meaningful ways.
* Relationship breakdown: it's great that you can see the relationship breakdown between a race and yourself (ie. why they have the current relationship number towards you). I'd also like to see it between 2 other races. It's annoying to spend hundreds of credits on a negative rumor, only to not see it influence anything. At least if you knew why a race's relationship was improving with another race, you could figure out what to do about it.
* General goals: some people clearly like the current method of having open goals. I think it's valid, and to me it can remain as an option (sandbox mode) in Drox 2. However, as stated above, the game really clicks IMO when you get/have more specific goals, because now you're not just doing quests to improve relations -- you now have to consider which quests to do, whom to help, whom you want to hurt by not doing their quests (or making things worse for them), which planets need your help, etc. It's when you think at the strategic level that the game shows you why it's the best in its class: "I need to break up the close relationship between Drakk and Dryad. Let's make an alliance with another ally of Drakk, then declare war on Dryad, and Drakk will have to honor their alliance," etc.
As such, I think the Ancients, who automatically dislike the Drox, bring a ton of flavor to the game, as do the Guild missions. Some people dislike the guild missions though because they distract you from the thing you were trying to do before they arrived. This is due to the fact that the guild missions don't analyze the situation that exists before they pop up, which is hard to do. They also don't give you any flexibility -- you have to do this one thing or you lose. And they often don't give you enough time given how many changes you'd need to make (e.g. killing a race with more than 3 planets could take more than an hour. If you haven't found that race, just finding it can take an hour).
My suggestion is to have a choice of sandbox mode (the current mode) which will remain undisturbed by the Drox guild OR mission mode. In mission mode, your mission could be one of: making enough money, create an alliance, destroy a race, protect a race etc. It could also be 'destroy this race or alternatively make this much money' in case destroying the race is just impractical given the random circumstances. I also still like the idea of additional, surprise Drox guild missions arriving later in the game, but they should give you a lot of time to do your thing, as well as some flexibility in their objectives.
TL;DR: More focused goals increase tension, and surprise goals are good but need to be more flexible and/or give more time. Sandbox (ie. current vanilla Drox mode) needs to be kept as an option for those who like it.
* We need ways to take down (or at least severely weaken) large, runaway empires. The method I'm thinking of to allow for this is that after growing past 5 or 6 planets, a race would have to start specializing several planets, as it's now an empire. It should have a seat of government. It needs to have a factory planet that can provide ships to other planets in large enough numbers. Of course, this complicates the AI somewhat, but hopefully not by too much. The key thing is that now, you can focus on a few choice planets to destroy to immobilize an empire rather than fighting an impossible fight against an empire that grows faster than you can destroy its planets. For example, if you take out the seat of government, the empire could fall into anarchy and split into different factions. If you take out the factory planet, ship production will stall everywhere. If you take out the food planets, the empire will starve, greatly weakening it. etc.
* Along a similar vein, planets that are richest in minerals and resources should be low in food production in general. In this way, they become dependent on food-rich planets and need shipments of food, which you would be able to intercept. This allows you to indirectly weaken planets or even destroy them potentially, again hurting large empires.
* Transfers between planets could happen with 'dummy ships' that aren't really created using resources, but just represent the transfer of goods and enable you (or monsters) to intercept them.